Wednesday 8/24/2011 – Riley Creek (Unit 2), Denali National Park, AK
- Total distance today: 6.53 mi
- Total moving time: 5:30
- Elevation: 4741ft ascent, max elevation 4952ft
We got up around 7:30-8am or so and went down to get our Bearvaults. This had been our first night in the backcountry so we weren’t sure what to expect with regard to the Bearvaults. They were completely untouched (or at least not moved at all). We broke down camp and were out by 10:15am.
We started our journey this day very slowly – we went about 1/2 mi in about 2 hours since it was major bushwhacking. Most was knee/waist height with some shoulder/head height. I’m 6’5″ – so bushwhacking through head height stuff was pretty challenging. It was slow, exhausting, and somewhat concerning since we wouldn’t have been able to see animals (bears, moose, caribou, etc) easily. We kept repeating “Hey bear! Hey Bear!, No bear! No Bear”. Bears are much more likely to avoid contact with humans when they know you’re approaching, and the human voice is much more effective at that than any artificial means.
After the bushwhacking, we had some ascending to do. Once we left the trees/bushes – we got hit by some major wind. At this point much of the overcast-ness had burned off and it was reasonably clear, and made for some beautiful vistas:
We stopped for lunch here:
At the top is where we hit the ridge we would follow for a while. This was the first real ridge hiking that any of us had ever done. We had to keep reevaluating our path – it was hard to visually distinguish lines and features on the map, but we got through it. It was very windy on the ridge – it must’ve been 30mph or more. We had to be very careful since on the leeward side sometimes was multi-thousand foot drop-offs and the ridge was narrow at times. Narrow ridge + big drop-off + high winds = danger.
As we progressed on the ridge hiking – we kept getting to spots where we would say “no way we’re getting up that!” and we just kept going and were able to get up every time.
God was very gracious and sovereign throughout the day. No animal encounters, we had the small stream which provided much needed water, and He gave us a very beautiful day (which made visual navigation possible).
After the top peak that we hit – we still had a few miles to go. It was mostly downhill with slight uphills. We made camp near a small stream, had dinner and went to bed. Our campsite this night wasn’t very level, but it was the only place we found and hopefully we’ll get good rest and not see any bears. At this point we still hadn’t seen any bears or moose, and we were all pretty ok with that 🙂 .
Just before bed, Dave and I marked our planned path for tomorrow to get to Unit 4. I read a bit of the Word before bed – I hadn’t had much of an opportunity to earlier this trip since we were always moving or just flat out exhausted at night.
Brian’s post for day 4 is here